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disappointing). All of these efforts had a similar rationale: to ensure that violations of labor rights would not be used to gain an unfair competitive advantage. Initially the ILRF was very active in bringing cases under the GSP and, to a lesser extent, OPIC, but this strategy eventually became unproductive, and few cases have been filed since the mid-1990s. The NAFTA side labor accords, although accorded a great deal of press coverage and play by politicians, are actually quite cumbersome and woefully lacking in remedial power.
These efforts and the more recent rise of codes of conduct and NGO activist and monitoring groups have a common theme—an attempt to substitute for, or move beyond, the authority of national governments to enforce labor standards. The global economy lacks a coherent and permanent governance structure sufficient to address the issues being created by commercial forces that do not recognize political boundaries. At the same time, most governments lack the technical expertise, political will, and financial resources to effectively enforce their own laws in the face of the unrelenting power of global commerce.
The work of the ILRF has benefited greatly from the work of the ILO. In particular, reports from the ILO’s Committee of Experts and Committee on Freedom of Association have been very valuable and are prepared by committees that command wide support. These reports are among the best sources of case law related to compliance with ILS. In addition, they are useful for sorting out the complicated cultural and political nature of cases involving violations of freedom of association. Also of note from the ILO are the two follow-up reports to the 1998 Declaration. In addition to the ILO, the ILRF has found that staff of, and reports from, U.S. embassies are often helpful, as are local, national, and international NGOs, including unions.
Finally, it is critical that the National Academies database be accessible to the public and open to challenge and dialogue from interested parties. This will serve as a peer review process and increase its legitimacy.